WH: Obama didn't endorse R.I. Dem 'out of respect' for Chafee

President Obama declined to endorse a candidate in the Rhode Island governor's race out of "respect" for independent candidate Lincoln Chafee, the White House acknowledged Monday.

Democratic nominee Frank Caprio lashed out at Obama after he found out the president would not be endorsing him during his visit to the Ocean State on Monday, telling the president to "shove it."

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"Out of respect for his friend Lincoln Chafee, the president decided to stay out of the race," White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton said onboard Air Force One.

Chafee is a former centrist Republican senator who lost his reelection bid in 2006, a Democratic wave year. The former senator endorsed Obama for president in 2008. 

The Democrat is in a three-way race with Chafee and GOP nominee John Robitaille; Caprio holds a single-digit lead over Chafee in a recent poll.

Earlier this year, Caprio reportedly considered switching parties from Democrat to Republican. 

Burton was pressed on the apparent disconnect between the White House saying it is doing everything it can for Democratic candidates and the president's decision not to endorse Caprio.

"The president's feeling is he has respect for his friend Lincoln Chafee, and he's not going to get involved in this race," Burton said.

Burton excused the language used by Caprio, saying "emotions are running high" a week out from Election Day.